MP hails rural connectivity boost as game changer

Major improvements to mobile communications in rural Dumfries and Galloway are on the way as part of a £1 billion deal backed by the UK Government.

Local MP and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has pushed for such an initiative since first being elected and welcomed the main operating companies coming on board to deliver more 4G coverage.

The investment will create an innovative Shared Rural Network (SRN) which will see providers EE, O2, Three and Vodaphone investing in new masts and upgrading existing sites.

Mr Jack stated that the deal, signed today (Monday), should mean that 4G will become available across 95 per cent of the UK land mass, no matter what network provider customers used. 

He said: "Mobile coverage has been a significant problem and an irritation for too many of my constituents, including those living and working in the countryside.

"I'm delighted with this breakthrough as our region will clearly benefit. The rural nature of Dumfries and Galloway has meant patchy mobile coverage, particularly in upland areas. This should make a real difference." 

Mr Jack predicted the five-year programme, overseen by a jointly-owned company, would improve communications in out-of-the-way areas of the region, which could encourage job creation.

Details of the plan are expected to be confirmed in Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Budget on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a £5 billion investment by the UK Government designed to bring Gigabit-capable broadband to digitally hard-to-reach rural areas looks set to be another big boost to south west Scotland.

The measure, also expected to feature in the Budget, would potentially provide speeds 40 times faster than superfast broadband to locations with no or slow existing connections.

Mr Jack said: "There are good things on the horizon as far as rural connectivity is concerned and I'm determined Dumfries and Galloway constituency takes full advantage of those opportunities.

"Broadband and mobile signal issues have been a recurring topic at my surgeries -- even more so as technological advances mean mobile communications and online digital services play a greater part in all our lives.

"These massive UK investments are game changers.  They should make rural parts of the region a better place to live, work, run a business or visit and prove a shot in the arm for our economy. "